The commandments within assure a firm foundation when designing a billboard. It’s up to you to decide what your message is and the concept that will deliver it, but if you follow these guidelines, you’ll be a lot better off than 70% of outdoor advertisers.
1 Thou shalt not use more than 7 words.
This is hard, I know. But not a single driver in the world will be able to read much more. Even if the billboard is at a stop light, people won’t even want to read it if you have more copy than this.
2 Thou shalt not use irrelevant images.
Your dog doesn’t belong on a billboard just because you think he’s cute. Only use images that help set a tone or illustrate your concept. And unless there’s a really good reason, you don’t need to be on a billboard. I’m not going to choose you as my real estate agent just because I saw your face 14′ tall.
3 Thou shalt not use bright crazy colors inappropriately.
These colors have their place in some ads, but more often than not, they’re misused. As if pure yellow backgrounds are really going to make people look. Ads get attention because they’re based on a solid strategy and well-designed, not because you use bright colors. In fact, relying on obnoxious colors can damage your image and make you look like a sleazy used car salesman.
4 Thou shalt not use more than one point of contact.
If your ad includes a phone number, street address, directions to your location and a website, you have three too many points of contact. Some might even say four too many. If you make a great ad, people will seek out your business.
5 Thou shalt not use starbursts.
They make you look cheap. If what you put in this starburst is that important, it should be the main message on your billboard.
6 Thou shalt not use system fonts.
Stop using Arial, Impact and Times. There are much better fonts that are far more readable. The general public probably can’t articulate this, but using these fonts makes your ad look generic and hurts your credibility. Just try something with a little personality. Making any font ultra-bold condensed and italic does not qualify as personality. If it came with your computer when you bought it, it’s probably a good idea to not use it.
7 Thou shalt not always include a call to action.
Not every ad needs this. It’s just a buzzword that some marketers made up so they could sound like they knew what they were talking about. Your entire billboard is a call to action whether that action is to buy something, turn at the next light, find more information, join a group , get excited, generate buzz or simply be aware that the brand exists. None of these actions are taken simply because you told people to do so. As long as your billboard creates some sort of emotional response, viewers will decide what action they want to take. If you don’t create an emotional response, they won’t take any action at all. Adding “call now” just tells viewers that you think they’re stupid and have no idea what to do.
8 Thou shalt not ignore thy audience.
Take care to know who you’re speaking to, and speak to them in the right tone. Your target audience is not everybody. Narrow your focus and you’ll make more sales. The best analogy is a shotgun versus a sniper rifle. With a shotgun you spread your chances of making a kill. But the sniper rifle guarantees it.
9 Thou shalt not rip off national advertising campaigns.
Mastercard’s Priceless campaign and the California Milk Processors Board’s Got Milk? campaign are fantastic and ridiculously effective. Copying them won’t be as effective for you. Sure, people might chuckle at first, but they’ll forget you pretty quickly. Doing this is no way to build your brand. So stop doing this. Just stop. Now.
10 Thou shalt break the rules.
Once you’ve mastered the rules, you can break them if you have a very deliberate purpose rooted in a strong concept. If your concept just wouldn’t work without breaking a rule, then you’ve probably got an award-winning billboard on your hands.